Shula and Kemp junior grade, now look to the pros
Hanover, N.H. — There's a famous picture of Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula standing on the sidelines in his well-known jut-jawed stance, while alongside of him keeping track of things on a clipboard is his adolescent son, Dave. Well, that kid is a college senior now, and after a spectacular career as a wide receiver at Dartmouth he has visions of playing in those National Football League games he used to record so avidly.
Shula wasn't the only member of this year's Big Green squad carrying a prominent name around, either, since the young man throwing most of those passes was Jeff Kemp, son of Jack Kemp, the former Buffalo Bills quarterback and now a New York congressman. He, too, would like a shot at pro ball, though like his batterymate he's not putting all his eggs in the NFL basket.
"It would be a dream come true," said Kemp, whose Father spent 10 years in the old American Football League. "I'm not counting on it, though. Realistically, I know there are lots of quarterbacks at larger schools. So I keep the thought far back in my mind. But I'd give it 100 percent if I got the chance."
"I'm hoping I get drafted," echoed Shula, whose dad also played pro ball (as a defensive back) before launchingthe coaching career in Baltimore and Miami that has made him one of pro football's all-time winningest mentors. "But I know there are bigger and faster guys out there."
What Shula has going for him -- perhaps as much as any wide receiver in the college ranks -- is the knack of getting open and then holding onto the ball. As a sophomore he set Dartmouth records with 49 catches and 656 yards gained, and he wound up with school career marks in both categories (133 and 1,822), as well as an Ivy League-record 103 receptions.
The only real question about the 5 ft., 11 in., 183-pound senior concerns his relative lack of speed. Many knowledgeable football people, including his own coach, Joe Yukica, and Harvard Coach Joe Restic, think Dave's pluses far outweigh this one deficiency. They point out that several top pro receivers have succeeded with a similar lack of burning speed. And they believe Dave can too -- if he gets the chance.
The 6 ft., 200-pound Kemp, who developed more slowly, would seem to be even more of a question mark than Shula. He did put on quite a show once he got going as a junior, though, winding up with numerous Dartmouth records including most yards gained in a season (1,470 this year) and most completions in a career (198). And he too has his backers, including Yukica, who ranks Jeff's arm up there with the strongest throwers he's ever had -- a category that includes former Boston College stars Gary Marangi and Mike Kruczek, both in the NFL now.
Son of famous fathers often have identity problems, but not so with this remarkably level-headed pair -- each of whom bears a notable resemblance to his prominent dad. Neither has ever been satisfied to bask in reflected glory, and both remain self-effacing now that their own accomplishments have attracted the spotlight.
As for growing up as the child of a celebrity, it was Shula who lived this role to a far greater extent than Kemp -- and he feels that it has definitely been a big advantage.
"The exposure, I had to the game all those years had to give me an edge," he said."When my dad came home and talked about how his day at the job went, it wasn't about business or sales -- it was about football practice. I was always fascinated, and I know he was happy that I was so interested. I'd take out diagram pads and draw up plays, and he'd show me all kinds of things."
Undoubtedly, it was because the boy was so fascinated that Don took him along so frequently to games and practices, where he watched and imitated his heroes among the wide receivers -- great stars like Ray Berry, Howard Twilley, Paul Warfield, etc. -- and sometimes even got the chance to go out for a few passes from Earl Morrall or Bob Griese.
The big thing Dave learned from all this exposure was that while great natural talents like Warfield got open virtually without thinking about it, receivers with far less speed such as Berry and Twilley achieved success by learning and perfecting a whole host of subtle maneuvers. Dave knew this was his category, and he had the good sense to learn all he could from such perfect teachers.
Kemp grew up close to football, too, of course, though he never had this type of total exposure to the game.
"A player's son doesn'sit on the bench like a coach's son," he said with a laugh. "Oh, I did a couple of times, and the sport was ingrained in me, too. But not on the day-to-day basis it was with Dave."
Also, Jeff's father retired when his son was only 10 or so, and Jack went into politics, not coaching.
Both fathers, of course, have maintained a close interest in their sons' careers, but while Jack Kemp has managed to go to nearly all of Dartmouth's games the last two years, Don Shula's duties running Miami's practices prevented him from doing so all through Dave's college days, until last Saturday's final game against Princeton. Don flew up from Miami for that one, and Dave responded with an outstanding day (seven receptions for 141 yards) in a losing 27-24 effort.
Now that their college careers are over, Kemp and Shula are both thinking in terms of law school -- but of course either or both will gladly postpone that for a while if the pro game does beckon, as the hope.